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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

RILKE

(1907, 1908). The interest of the poems here gathered in is so
ramified that in the scope of such an essay as this only a hint of
their significance can be given. They have, as is the case with
Hebbel's plays, threefold sense: that of object, type, and symbol.
Rilke also aimed at achieving congruence of object, rhythm, and
atmosphere. The Nw Poem are yet another attempt at a 'Legends
des sticks, for they give a picture of all the phases of culture -
Biblical, Greek, Roman, medieval, Baroque, Oriental, modern.
A chronological division is, however, quite illusory; for all these
periods merely serve to provide subjects which illuminate present-
day states of mind. The terrible despair of Christ in Der Olbauw-
garten^ for instance, is worlds removed from the spirit of the New
Testament: Christ in His agony (the agony of any man whose
ideals crumble into dust) denies God and all divinity.

The predominating influence is that of Rodin. Rilke himself
stated what Rodin had taught him: to labour patiently. 'Travailler
toujoursT was Rodin's advice. Hitherto Rilke had thought that
inspiration was sufficient; from Rodin's example he learned that
inspiration must be laboured into the flawless work of art. Now
the poet's aim is to create 'Kunstdinge9 , which, he says in a letter to
Lou Andreas-Salome, have the need of existence of the created
thing they represent. The aesthetic doctrine of "things' which
Rilke applied in New Poems he interpreted in the second part of
his lecture Augusts JLodin (1907). 'Thing', he says, implies fixed
contours in space; a shape in which all movement has ceased and
which is something permanent in the shape in which it is seen.
A thing endures, a human being does not endure. If the beauty
we see anywhere is by imitation transferred to a thing, then this
thing lasts longer than that from which it was imitated. Not only
does it last, it lives - as eternal beauty; it lives, because it stirs
emotion. Rilke thereupon shows that Rodin by the distribution of
light on his surfaces accomplishes the miracle of expressing move-
ment and of expressing by this suggestion of movement what is
going on within the object imitated; that is, he gets soul as well as
body into his sculpture. And this is what Rilke attempts in his
New Poems. Movement of course must be progressive; and pro-
gressive movement (fortschreitende Handlmg) is according to Les-
sing (the great authority on the relations to each other of the arts)
the very essence of poetry: while poetry reproduces action con-
secutive in time* plastic art can only fix in space an action taken at